Californians fight for clean and accesible water
Everyone knows about Flint. But there’s a lesser-known drinking water crisis in rural California which predominantly impacts low-income communities of color. An estimated 1 million Californians in 300 communities are exposed to unsafe levels of contaminants in their drinking water every year. The problem is so extensive that California was the first state in the United States to pass legislation in 2012 enshrining in law the promise that access to safe and affordable drinking water is a human right.
Legislation is making its way through Sacramento which would finally deliver on this promise. The Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund directly addresses the funding shortfalls and gaps which communities face. It would more than double the amount of annual funding available to community drinking water systems for infrastructure. More importantly, this funding would have the flexibility to fill critical funding gaps. No funding source is currently available to help small communities cover the costs of operating and maintaining their drinking water systems, nor is any funding source available for low-income California residents reliant on contaminated domestic wells. This fund would bridge both these gaps.
The benefits of this proposed fund should make it a no-brainer. It would bring public water utilities in line with privately-owned utilities like electricity and gas, which collect a small monthly surcharge to ensure that less-fortunate residents are able to access those same utilities. Households will be charged less than one dollar a month to guarantee that communities throughout the state can access funding to address contaminated water and worn-out infrastructure. In addition, the agricultural sector, which has contributed to contamination of groundwater through dairy waste and fertilizers, would chip in their fair share through fees on dairies and fertilizer production.
The Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund is the result of more than 5 years of discussions and coalition-building. More than 140 organizations, from nonprofits to city governments, and environmental organizations to agricultural interest groups, have all signed in support of this bill, and polling suggests that more than 60% of California residents support the fund.
So now is the time. Too many communities have waited far too long. It is time for the Golden State to lead the way to make good on the promise of a human right to safe and affordable drinking water. Learn more and take action at FundSafeWaterCA.org.